January 24th, 2021

Needle issue divides City Council

By Lethbridge Herald on June 12, 2018.

Herald photo by Greg Bobinec Lethbridge City Council member Blaine Hyggen says that he wants to end the clean needle exchange program following the influx of incidences revolving around needle derbis, in the Council Chambers of City Hall Monday afternoon.

J.W. Schnarr
Lethbridge Herald
An attempt to hold a community meeting exploring the idea of restricting needle distribution to the supervised consumption site has been blocked by council — but the community meeting will go ahead on the broader issues of the opioid crisis.
During Council’s regular meeting on Monday, a motion by Coun. Blaine Hyggen requested Council hold a Community Issues Committee meeting on the opioid crisis focusing on a discussion about syringes being “in circulation only within ARCHES Supervised Consumption Site and that needles not be permitted to leave the building.”
“It’s my belief that we do have to adhere to a harm reduction model, but I think that also takes into account the other citizens of Lethbridge, and not just those that are the addicts,” he said.
“Nothing is being done,” he later added. “It’s like, here’s this epidemic, here’s a bunch of needles and you guys give them out, and you guys deal with it.”
Coun. Rob Miyashiro said Hyggen was wrong for insisting nothing was being done.
“I think you need to understand that you’re just inflaming this whole situation by saying nothing is being done,” he said. “There’s lots being done.”
When challenged about the number of initiatives the City has been involved with regarding the opioid crisis and resulting needle debris, Hyggen acknowledged “nothing” was not the right word.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s right close to next to nothing, in my opinion,” he said.
Miyashiro then attempted to postpone a decision on the resolution, but it was defeated by Council. Council proceeded to divide the original resolution in half, with Hyggen and Joe Mauro voting against.
Council passed the motion to hold a CIC, and defeated the second motion about whether to focus on restricting the use and release of needles with Coun. Ryan Parker, Mauro, and Hyggen voting to keep the original intent of the CIC.
It is unclear whether the City has the ability to stop ARCHES from distributing clean needles, as it is not a municipal program.
In an interview late Monday night, Stacey Bourque, Executive Director for ARCHES, said the organization is operating an Alberta Health-funded program and thier mandate is to reduce the transmission of disease.
“Our directive comes from the provincial  government,” she said.
Following the discussion, Mauro said Hyggen’s frustration was in line with what he has seen himself in the community.
“His resolution is bang on with what were hearing in the community,” he said.
Mauro said he is receiving around 500 messages per week from the community in regards to needle debris.
“People are frustrated.they are tired and we cant give them any answers and they want answers,” he said. “And rightfully so.”
During discussion on delaying a decision, Coun. Ryan Parker said Council was experiencing frustration because there  are no clear answers and they are learning how to deal with the issue on their own.
“This is the perfect opportunity to get the people in the room who can answer all the questions, because we can’t answer all the questions,” he said.
“I understand people’s frustration, and I can empathize,” Bourque said, noting ARCHES staff are community members themselves and many have children.
She said the other side of the issue is the crisis growing out of control without a lot of help for people to access.
“I believe, instead of focusing on stopping programs that are effective in preventing disease transmission … we should be focusing on how we can encourage and advocate for the necessary services that are missing in our community.”
Coun. Jeff Carlson said Council is being blamed for the issue because of all the work it is doing to help with the issue.
“We’re being blamed for this issue because we are trying to do the best for our community.
“People just don’t know how much the City is advocating for the different services that are needed,” said Bourque. “Such as more treatment beds and medical detox, as well as intox.”
Bourque said she would be interested in being part of a CIC to help the address myths and misinformation circulating in the community.
“We care very much about the health of the community,” she said. “We also care very much about the drug using population, that’s extremely vulnerable and is looking for support services.”
Follow @JWSchnarrHerald on Twitter

Share this story:
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Stop supplying free needles; make them available by prescription only. The users will eventually leave town if you make it impossible for them to shoot up. Quit enabling this ridiculous lifestyle.

Alternately, get used to your kids and grandkids getting stuck by used needles in parks and playgrounds.
Its time to quit being politically correct here, quit pandering to the users, and literally drive them out of our city. They don’t want help, quit trying to change them.

One day it will become abundantly evident that Arches is the biggest boondoggle ever to come to Lethbridge. But only after we throw millions of dollars down that bottomless pit, and still have no solution to the problem.

Dennis Bremner

I say “again”:

What makes ARCHES believe that they are not providing relief to all outlier communities and dumping all the “clients” from outskirt communities on Lethbridge and their citizens? What happens if ARCHES decides to move to the next level, providing Hydromorphone or other drugs, should we then consider on laying on buses for all the communities within 60 miles, because I am sure that will be the result. So think carefully before assuming you know the answers because the community has not seen an answer that is suitable to them yet!

I note no one else has addressed the elephant in the room. So I will. Lets deal with the immediate areas of the Blood Reserve, Coledale and Colehurst How many of the present Client list of ARCHES Lethbridge are members of the Blood Reserve? How many are from Coaldale, Coalhurst? What immediate or long term plans or applied for funding, has the Blood Reserve, Coaldale or Coalhurst done too help their community members with this crisis? Is there plans, whether immediate or in the distant future on setting up a Coalhurst, Coaldale, or Blood Reserve ARCHES? Has anyone of these communities applied for Provincial Funding to set up an ARCHES?
I see no comments from any of these outlier communities so are they liaising with ARCHES Lethbridge and have some immediate plans that the public is not aware of?
Has ARCHES Lethbridge just decided that they will establish one unit, pull every addict in from a radius of 60 miles then just wonder why Lethbridge residents don’t understand their illogical approach? Does Lethbridge ARCHES realize that OF COURSE the opioid crisis will grow in Lethbridge once addicts realize there is only ONE SAFE PLACE FOR THEM within 140 miles?
It is difficult for the people of Lethbridge to see ANY co-ordinated attack to get a grip on this crisis if things are not discussed openly and the Local Papers are not given the information to pass onto the residents of Lethbridge?


I would also like to see some real numbers of what percentage of ARCHES clients have actually moved on to get help, and have straightened out their lives? I am willing to bet, if such numbers actually exist, they will be hesitant to publish them. Likely less than 1%.
As mentioned previously, clients of ARCHES do not, I repeat, do not want help. They just want to get stoned, again.
So tell me again, how is ARCHES helping with the opiod crisis??

Dennis Bremner

Let me be as clear as I possibly can be. No punches pulled, just the facts.
Lethbridge will become the “shoot up capital of southern Alberta”. The outlier communities like Claresholm will ensure their officers pick up druggies and either give them a hard time or jail them. The Druggies in turn will learn about the NDP’s kinder Gentler Lethbridge where no druggie feeding his or her habit is harrassed. They will come to Lethbridge.
Lethbridge will then have a food kitchen crisis and a shelter crisis that will continue to rise in amplitude as the new NDP Kinder Gentler Lethbridge rumor spreads.

Soon, the NDP will come up with another brilliant plan to house the addicts in a section of Lethbridge that I can asure you, the environment minister DOES NOT LIVE.
Crime WILL rise because the number of addicts in Lethbridge will rise. That will require more policing.

What our council will do in November (or earlier) of this year is have an emergency meeting and say WTF happened? We have a housing crisis created by the NDP ARCHES, a food crisis created by the NDP’s ARCHES and a policing crisis because of the NDP’s ARCHES program.
If we attract enough users to “Kinder Gentler Lethbridge, then we will have a downtown TAX base crisis as well, after all, who would want to go downtown anymore. So shops closing will be next.
Then Council comes to the Ratepayer to make up the difference!
So I just have to ask:
Is the police service, the Lethbridge Police or the NDP Police? Who is giving our police there marching orders?

Meanwhile if the Senate procrastinates, a marijuana user who has a 20 joint a day habit will be in jail while we feed, house and provide a safe place for the hard drug user that the Lethbridge Police must have been told to ignore. Anyone other than me see how nuts this is?

Welcome to the Zoo


You nailed it!